At the outset, it should be pointed out that the Regional Aid Map is decided by the European Commission not the Government. In negotiations with the Commission, the Government sought the inclusion of much more of the country including Drogheda Urban. We will do so again at the mid-term review in 2023 when the data from the census is available.
In European law, Louth is part of the Mid-East Region (NUTS2) alongside Meath, Kildare and Wicklow not the Border region. Louth is the only county in the Mid-East to have any part of it included as a qualifying area in the Regional Aid Map. This is due to its proximity to the border even though it is not officially in the NUTS2 Border region.
Regional Aid does not involve any European money or grants and should not be confused with structural funds which Ireland qualified for in the past. Rather it limits the amount of regional state aid that the Irish exchequer can provide to certain geographic areas based on specified criteria.
In Drogheda, the focus was on including the areas around the town where major industrial development is most likely to occur in the future. So, the following industrial areas in Drogheda Rural do qualify. These are:
- The new land acquired by IDA Ireland in June 2021. This is located in the townland of Mell and is 7.55 ha. It is located just off Junction 10 on the M1 Dublin to Belfast motorway. For regional aid purposes, this is Drogheda Rural LEA and it is included in the Regional Aid Map.
- Newtown Science & Tech Park. This is yet to be developed and it is also home to the Drogheda Enterprise Centre, a REDF funded project.
- Drogheda North Business Park. This is yet to be developed.
The Regional Aid Map for every Member State must be developed within the criteria laid down in the European Commission’s Regional Aid Guidelines, issued in April 2021. Ireland’s economy has shown strength and improvement since 2014. As a consequence, the European Commission proposed to reduce the overall coverage of Ireland’s Map, as measured by proportion of total population, to 25.6%. Following intensive negotiations with the Commission, this was increased to 35.9%. This is a reduction of almost one third from the 51.3% which applied previously. This adjustment was part of a European wide review and Ireland was not unique in facing a reduction in coverage. With a more limited population coverage, and the strict criteria set by the Commission, it was important that the optimal allocation was achieved.
To achieve this, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, working with stakeholders, including Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland and Údarás na Gaeltachta, developed a multi-dimensional model that provided a depth of analysis within the Commission’s set criteria. This was an objective and impartial approach, though final approval of the Map, for Ireland and for all Member States, rests with the European Commission. The Commission announced its decision on 22 March 2022.
Due to the more limited population coverage available to be allocated, several Local Electoral Areas (LEAs) identified by the multi-dimensional model could not be included. We sought to include these areas and explored all options with the European Commission, but it was not possible to include them. However, they have been recognised and listed as reserves, including Drogheda Urban, and these areas will be kept under close review with a view to including them as part of a mid-term review of the Map, which will take place in 2023.
Highly residential LEAs such as Drogheda Urban tend not to be areas where enterprises might develop. While Drogheda Urban LEA is not included in the Map there is scope for positive ‘spill-over’ effects for the Drogheda Urban LEA, e.g., residents of Drogheda Urban LEA can benefit from employment opportunities in neighbouring areas.
LEAs not included on the map can still access all other types of State Aid. Only approximately 7.4% of Ireland’s State Aid is in the form of Regional Aid and other aid remains available to enterprises, irrespective of their location. For example, enterprises in Drogheda-Urban LEA and other areas not included on the Regional Aid Map may still avail of Research, Development and Innovation Aid, Environmental Aid, Training Aid, and Consultancy Aid, under the General Block Exemption Regulation. Aid under the De Minimis Regulation, i.e., aid to an undertaking of less than €200,000 in any rolling 3-year period, offers a further avenue, particularly for smaller sized grants and investments to small enterprises.